The best part about open-source applications isn’t even that they’re free – it’s that open-source applications are community-driven; anyone can access and modify the source code in whatever fashion they choose. As an event management professional, you should relish that sort of freedom; in the right hands, open-source is an incredibly valuable tool.
Unfortunately, the open-source event-planning scene is still in its infancy, so there aren’t a great many event management applications that fall squarely under the open-source umbrella. Even so, there are five open-source applications that tech savvy event planners with an interest in tinkering about should check out.
Plan and track everything about your event with the in-depth services offered by Eventbrite. You pay nothing for free events and just a small fee for paid ticketed events. It is well worth the cost since it is one of the most extensive tools out there that can do anything from managing guest lists and ticket sales to the actual planning of the event.
Technically, there are two versions of ConfTool – a professional version designed for managing massive, enterprise-level events, and the standard – original – VSIS Conftool, which is suitable for events with up to 150 participants. Although it features only basic functions and is offered without any support, it’s free – and a perfect choice for a non-commercial event.
So, BaseCamp isn’t technically open-source, and it’s not technically an event management application. That said, many of the platform’s best features have been made into open-source offerings, which in the right hands can be combined to build a powerful event-planning suite. Though you’ll need to be a little tech savvy (know some basic programming) in order to do anything with their open-source offerings.
Event Espresso is an interesting case. It’s free, but it’s not technically open-source (even though developed for WordPress.) Still, it makes this list by virtue of being developed under the GNL, and by the fact that – if you’re willing to shell out for the paid version – you’ll have access to an incredibly active development community and a powerful support network; two things which are definitely worth their weight in cash.
Next up on our list is Open Conference System (OCS). Designed with academic conferences in mind, this web-based tool allows you to, with little effort required, coordinate all important event details, automating paper submission, conference proceedings, and participant registration. Granted, it’s a pretty niche tool, but it’s a godsend if you’re looking to run a scholarly event of any kind.
I’ve saved the best for last. Open Conference Ware is a powerful, general-purpose platform originally released to allow the organization of events related to “free sharing of information, open society, and involved citizenry.” That said Open Conference Ware could be used to run and manage just about any type of event you can imagine. It can set up tracks, proposals, sessions, user profiles, and a great deal more. Do note, however, that it requires a bit of tech savvy in order to use – to install it you need knowledge of UNIX.
As I said, the open-source event management market is still relatively small. Yet here’s hoping that as more event planners awaken to the benefits of open-source, we start to see more powerful, full featured and – most importantly – open applications hitting the market. After all, there are few things more powerful than freedom.